Morocco Synagogue Gets Spruce Up

An historic synagogue in Essaouira, Morocco is to be refurbished in a joint project with the German Foreign Ministry.

It will be the second synagogue to be restored under a special German government program.

Tuesday’s announcement came as the Moroccan Ambassador in Berlin, Omar Zniber, launched an exhibit at the embassy’s cultural center of photographs of Moroccan Jews from the 1960s as well as new photos of synagogues in the country, both pre- and post-renovation.

At the time of the photos, there were still tens of thousands of Jews in Morocco. Today, the population is estimated at about 2,500.

In addition, a conference on “Moroccan Jewish cultural patrimony” was hosted at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum this week.

A spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry told JTA that the restoration of the 19th century Simon Attias Synagogue in Essaouira is to be completed in 2015. It is a joint effort with the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage.

“With this project, the Federal Foreign Office supports the preservation of Jewish heritage in Morocco, thereby helping to strengthen the national identity of the country,” he said.

The program already completed the restoration of the 17th century Slat al Fassiyin synagogue in Fez, which had been used as a carpet factory and then a boxing ring. It was rededicated in ceremonies last year.

At that ceremony, Moroccan King Mohammed IV called for the restoration of all synagogues in the country “so that they may serve not only as places of worship, but also as forums for cultural dialogue and for the promotion of our cultural values.”

Among those attending Berlin’s events this week were Jacques Toledano, executive chairman of the Moroccan Foundation of Jewish Cultural Heritage and the Moroccan Jewish Museum in Casablanca; and Serge Berdugo, president of the Union of Moroccan Jews.

At the end of World War II, an estimated 265,000 Jews lived in Morocco. By the mid 1960s, more than 200,000 had immigrated, mostly to Israel.

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